Author Interview: Heather Lynn Miller

Learning® magazine’s spring issue features This Is Your Life Cycle, which is new from Clarion Books. Written by teacher-author Heather Lynn Miller, the book invites students to join game show host Bob Beetle for a glimpse into the life of Dahlia, a dragonfly nymph. We asked the author about her background as a teacher, her writing process, how the book fits into the curriculum, and more.

How did the idea for This Is Your Life Cycle come to you?
This Is Your Life Cycle was originally written about a cicada rather than a dragonfly. The idea came to me when I saw a newspaper article describing the expected emergence of a massive brood of 17-year cicadas. When I read the article I pictured the scene: a groggy cicada reaching the surface, only to be greeted by a crowd of excited spectators. The story of the insect’s life cycle was already determined by nature; I just added language and humor that puts it all into simple terms. The decision to switch the insect to a dragonfly was suggested by my editor. We agreed that more children are familiar with dragonflies.

Another recent book by Heather Lynn Miller

Where does This Is Your Life Cycle fit into today’s curriculum?
The book slides easily into the science curriculum. The story presents the life cycle of a dragonfly but could serve as a springboard to learning about other insects or ecosystems. Teachers could also use the book to teach a lesson on creative writing. This book gives teachers and students an example of how factual information can be approached with lively humor. Perhaps teachers could challenge their students to write the script to a commercial describing a scientific concept.

How does your background as a teacher contribute to your writing?
My background in education helped me understand how powerful books are as teaching tools. A book can teach a concept in a way that is different from anything else. When given a good book, young readers are engaged and entertained while learning at the same time. In many ways I’m still teaching when I write; it’s just in a different form.

Tell us a little about your writing process.
Because I am a teacher and because I have children of my own, I am always looking at the world through curious eyes. When something particularly amazing or peculiar grabs my attention I start thinking about how I could present the information in an interesting way through the platform of a book. Once an idea comes to me, I usually jump into it right away. I tend to write quickly but then have to force myself to let the piece sit and simmer. By giving myself this time, I can get some distance from the initial surge of energy that made me start the book. After that I can go back to it with a more critical, editorial point of view. It is during this stage that the book really comes together and gets fine-tuned.

When is your next book coming out?
My next picture book is from Charlesbridge and will hit the market in July. It’s called Subway Ride. The text for the book is very short but the message is strong. The story encourages multicultural acceptance as five children board a magical subway that takes them to stations in various locations all over the world. The illustrations drawn by Sue Rama are truly amazing. I’m very pleased with the outcome. It really is a beautiful book.

If you haven’t seen This Is Your Life Cycle, it’s definitely one to check out. No doubt your students will fly through the pages!


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